I have been reading, with as much interest as I ever did, blogs from DaMomma, Kira and Dooce, three women who have at least one thing in common- they have all had babies in the last year or so. As they share the joys and challenges that have come with adding to their household’s numbers, I giggle and nod knowingly; I well remember those early years, when things like bedtimes, grocery shopping and tiny pink shoes were such an integral part of the shape of each day.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that getting from Point A to Point B often resembled military manouvers with their planning, precision and sheer unpredictability in the outcome. I once heard an Early Childhood Education professor describe parenting thusly: Imagine you’re in the cockpit of a jumbo jet, tasked with bringing the behemoth plane in for a safe and happy landing. You’ve never done it before, have no training, there’s no instruction manual, and your co-pilot is just as clueless as you. It’s also foggy. Now add in three kids pounding on the cockpit door, demanding the drinks cart be brought back around THIS MINUTE.
I read these women, and others like them, and I want to tell them one thing: Love every minute of it, because before you know it, the plane’s on the ground, your passengers have taken their luggage and caught a connecting flight, and all that’s left to do is empty the trash bags and scrub the lavatory.
When my kids were small, I often heard, “This too shall pass.” I always assumed that was a promise, not a threat. Now, here we are, just a few blinks later, and we’ve gone from jumbo jet to twin-engine, and the remaining passenger just glances up from her iPod every now and then to say, “Can you drop me at the mall? ”
In rapid succession, the almost-grown-ups have grown up, and are flying the coop, in one way or another. Suddenly, all the chairs fit around the table, days pass without the basement light being turned on, and no one is stealing my socks. It doesn’t take an engineering degree to pack the car trunk for a weekend away.
Oddly enough, though my nest is nearly empty, my basement is still full. I remember Erma Bombeck lamenting the tendency of college students to take everything that wasn’t mailed down when they left home. This is not true – first apartments and dorm rooms don’t hold much, and so the house now feels a little like a storage facility. I’m tempted to charge a fee.
I’ve really been surprised by what a struggle this has been for me. I have always had things other than “mother” to define myself with. I work, I volunteer, I have friends of my own. I have a co-pilot who still enthralls me with intelligent conversation. And, of course, I still have one more chick who’s got several years yet before she can fly on her own.
I’m coming to the conclusion that it’s not so much empty-nest as it is a psychological and emotional morning-after-the-party thing. You know, everyone had a fantastic time, and you danced until dawn. If you’re lucky, the party was fantastic – good times, lots of laughs, heart-warming memories to take out and look at when you’re feeling a bit down.
But then the party’s over and you have to drag yourself out of bed to start clearing up the dishes, taking out the trash, and running the vacuum over the floor. It sucks, a little bit.
So yeah, it passes. Much, much more quickly than you think. So, like the song says: Don’t blink.